Monday, September 22, 2014

From $15 an Hour to Unemployment

From $15 an Hour to Unemployment
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
September 22, 2014

Aspiring to a $15 an hour fast food wage? Stop reading now. Just stop reading and go back to work mindlessly cleaning grease traps.

I’m not casting aspersions on grease traps, just those who see $15 as an end, not an illogical beginning. Stop reading because the following economics and history lessons will fall upon blind eyes and make too much sense to maintain your current way of myopic thinking.

The Federal minimum wage in the United States is $7.25 an hour and fast food workers are demanding a 207 percent wage increase. Imagine how that will affect the bottom line of any franchise surrendering to those demands.

Gone will be the dollar and budget menus that entice many who ultimately spend more. Gone will be sensible pricings that allow folks of modest means to patronize establishments from Arby’s to Wendy’s. When prices rise exponentially to cover the cost of increased wages, sales will decrease concomitantly, thus causing large scale layoffs to occur. Those making the $15 per hour wage will find themselves on the unemployment line. Ultimately entire businesses will be shuttered creating greater joblessness and dependency upon government.

An alternative plan, although less feasible, is to gather the workers together, tell them that half of them will need to be dismissed from their jobs in order to afford to pay the remaining half the 207 percent wage increase. Then, let them swing their own axes. Let the workers determine who should stay and who should go. With the decision making process on the workers’ shoulders, they will know they had an impact on whose jobs were lost and whose were salvaged first hand.

What these workers seem to have either forgotten or never learned, is that if they only aspire to a $15 an hour job, that is where they will remain – mired at the bottom of the economic food chain. By understanding that a minimum is simply that, a point from which to grow with learning and hard work, the employee will eventually climb the ladder toward real success.

Case in point, Jeff Stratton, who recently retired after 41 years with McDonald’s. Having started with the company at age 17, Stratton leaves having risen to the position of McDonald’s US president. Was Stratton handed the position of president? Of course not. He rose  through the ranks, no doubt having learned the business from the bottom up – sweeping, cleaning, frying, selling, supervising a shift, writing a schedule for the establishment, training new employees, learning purchasing and payroll procedures for one restaurant, then a region, and beyond, all the while learning the process for the next steps up the corporate ladder.

Learning both on the job and in school is also a key to success. Employers see success in the classroom as demonstrative of a person who can learn and be trained in the corporate setting, thus making those people valuable employees. These are employees who will understand the economics as discussed above and not just work hard to get ahead, but actually get ahead.

And, by the way, at $15 an hour, these unskilled, largely uneducated, transposable workers would surpass, in hourly earnings, substitute teachers, adjunct professors, and the average man and woman serving their country in the Armed Forces. Disgraceful the aforementioned do not earn more, but should also put into perspective the outlandish demands of fast food workers.

Instead of making such unreasonable demands as an employee easily replaceable, listen, ask questions, show up to work on time, work holidays and weekends when no one else wants to and make your own future. If not in the fast food business, the skills learned could be transferred elsewhere, but if not the skills, certainly the work ethic that will make you more valuable. Be the next Jeff Stratton by striving for personal betterment through personal responsibility.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN.

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